Dhe trip to Moscow at the beginning of the month will hang on Josep Borrell for a long time. Russia used it not to take the outstretched hand of the EU foreign representative, but to hook him on the chin – with the parallel expulsion of three diplomats. And with a press conference in which Sergei Lavrov handed it out against Europe to his heart’s content.
Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.
Did Borrell always have his cover up there? Shouldn’t he have made a punch himself? EU diplomats were “surprised” by his appearance, and there was even talk of a fiasco in Eastern countries. The person criticized defended himself by saying that he did not regard a press conference as a “fist fight”.
Scientifically shaped and historically educated
One can have different views on questions of style. In the case of the Spaniard, there is of course the suspicion that he went to Moscow poorly prepared and fell victim to his inexperience. Although Borrell, 73 years old, has been shaping politics for more than four decades, he had only been Foreign Minister of his country for one year under Pedro Sánchez before moving to Brussels.
In the 1990s he held several government posts, after which he was a member, first in the Spanish and then in the European Parliament. It is undisputed that he understands something about the matter. In his blog and in interviews, a man speaks who can analyze the strategic issues of the present.
Borrell is influenced by the natural sciences. He studied aerospace engineering and economics in Madrid, mathematics in Stanford and energy in Paris, all with degrees. Before going into politics, he was a university professor for ten years. In his way of solving problems, he sees himself as related to the natural scientist Angela Merkel. He is also historically educated.
The lesson he draws from his visit to Russia therefore carries weight: that the government is afraid of Western values and is distancing itself from Europe. The EU states seem to share this judgment. This Monday they want to adopt new sanctions in principle because of the Navalnyj case.
Berlin and Paris are also no longer on the brakes, as they were in January. Borrell’s trip clarified the relationship with Moscow. All states are now protecting themselves from the Spaniards. Otherwise Lavrov would only be given the next triumph, they say. Nonetheless, the external commissioner’s authority remains denied.
Before the meeting of the foreign ministers it was not clear whether he himself – as announced – would propose Russians for sanctions. The states are still not in agreement on whether to target only the Russian judiciary or also oligarchs. Borrell wants to narrow the circle, but does not want to expose himself to criticism again.
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